“Any word on Nicky?”
“Rory’s group has entered the prison building. Only minimal resistance, with a few casualties—Nicky’s not one of them,” he said quickly at the look on Marco’s face. “He and Evan and Gabe are on their way down with Rory andthe wolves to find Brett.”
“Thank God,” Marco said softly as Ian slapped him on the back. “Never again,” he said with a laugh, shaking his head.“I’m a nervous wreck.”
“They’ve done well so far, though,” Ian said with pride, looking at Logan. “You have to admit that.”
“I do admit it,” Marco said. “But I still wish this was over with so I could get my hands on him again.You do realize what this means, don’t you, Ian? From now on, Nicky will want to sit in on all our council meetings.”
Ian regarded him with horror as Logan stood beside them and smiled a little as he leaned against the wall.
Evan followed Rory and the other two gammas down the dark, familiar hallway of the prison where he’d first seen Brett only a few months ago. Then he’d been shackled to the floor in chains. He wondered what condition he would find him in this time. They checked each cell as they went down the hall and found them empty until they reached the third door down. From within they could hear what sounded like an animal in pain, howling and whimpering. The sound made the hair stand up on the back of Evan’s neck. Nicky squeezed his arm reassuringly as they waited for Rory and the others to get the door open. When they did, all three of the wolves rushed inside and over to a figure chained to the wall. Evan caught a glimpse of something not quite human and couldn’t be sure if it was Brett or not.
They wrestled with the creature, forcing him to the ground and trying not to hurt him, though he fought them desperately. One of the big gammas got the creature in a headlock so that Rory could inject him with the sedative prescribed by Dr. Cornsilk. It took almost five minutes for it to calm him down enough so that some of the hair and claws receded from him and Evan was finally able to recognize Brett. He ran over to him, but he saw no recognition on his face as he growled at him from beneath the press of arms holding him down. Evan put a hand on his thigh and spoke to him softly, calling his name, but he shut his eyes tightly and screamed so loudly Evan drew back his hand.
Finally, the sedative took full effect and Brett’s big body relaxed into a deep sleep, only twitching occasionally. They picked him up carefully and carried him outside to lay him on the grass. There was a kind of controlled chaos all around them as Evan knelt down next to Brett and held his hand, with Nicky by his side.Evan was shocked by Brett’s appearance. He was filthy and gaunt, with almost purple shadows under his beautiful eyes, now sunken and hollow. There were deep cuts all along his arm, which were crusted with blood, swollen and infected. He was burning with fever, and his body jerked from time to time and shuddered.
Dr. Cornfield arrived to examine him and immediately called Marco over. Marco warmly glanced once at Nicky and then focused all his attention on the doctor. “I need to get him to the clinic right away, Marco. I wish I could take him to the hospital, but I know it’s impossible. We’ll need to transfuse him as soon as possible with alpha blood.” Marco nodded.“You’ll have three of us as donors.”
“Good. He’s going to need it.” Marco ran off to obtain transport and Dr. Cornfield looked
over at Evan for the first time. “He’s bad, Evan. He’s only made it this long because he’s so young and strong. After I transfuse him and get him stabilized, I can find the records to see what they’ve been injecting him with.“I’m sorry, Evan. I’ll do the best I can.”
Evan nodded as Nicky grasped his shoulder. “He’ll make it. Just keep telling yourself that and don’t give up hope.”
“I know he will, Nicky. He has to—I don’t think I can live without him.”
“Stop pacing, Evan . You’re beginning to make me nervous,” Nicky said, trying to concentrate on his painting. He was working at an easel set up in his and Marco’s quarters. It was the first time Evan had ever seen him work, though he’d heard that he was a really good artist.
Evan stood behind him for a few minutes, looking at his painting. It was a landscape of a mountain view in a picture he had taped to the top of his easel. It was beautifully done, and Evan was a little amazed that Nicky had painted it. Nicky was a great guy and had been a good friend to Evan, but he never seemed to be serious about much of anything, always making jokes and fooling around. Nicky always surprised him when he displayed just how smart and talented he really was.
Six weeks had passed since the night at the Hunters ’ complex. The total number of Hunters who had decided to surrender and join them that night numbered seventy-five, including the feral soldiers.They had decided to divide the numbers up by three, with a third going to live at Zack’s home in Georgia, a third going to the alpha in Tennessee, and the rest living in a big encampment near Mountainwood. The young gamma male and female wolves had been encouraged to find a mate among their numbers and quite a few had done so. The rest were being supplied with blood from the other wolves on a rotating basis until a mate could be found for them. Marco grumbled that he felt like he was running a dating service these days instead of a pack.
Ironically, the general who had been captured was one of the first to find a mate. An older widower from Zack’s pack had asked for him. Now that he was Werekin, they had to accept him and not make fun of him, but Logan was finding it hard not to be just a little gleeful that the previously homophobic general was now the mate of a wolf, and from all accounts, very happy.
The most worrisome problem, of course, had been Brett. When Evan was finally allowed to see him after a few days of intensive treatment, he had still looked terrible, and had gazed at Evan with no recognition evident on his face.
The doctor had discovered the records showing the various chemicals that he’d been injected with, an assortment of acids and poisons. He said the only treatment was the alpha blood and they gave him as much as he could hold.After about a week, he’d begun to show improvement and his recovery had been steady after that. He knew who Evan was, but he still wouldn’t meet his gaze or talk to him, turning his head to the wall whenever Evan came in.
Evan wanted to throw his arms around him, and tell him how much he loved him, but Brett was somehow distant and unyielding. Evan contented himself with sitting by him quietly and holding his hand occasionally when he’d allow it. Evan went to see him less and less though, thinking Brett preferred him to stay away and not wanting to make him uncomfortable.
Marco walked in and Nicky turned to smile at him. He came over right away and dropped a kiss on his lips, rubbing a hand over his shoulders. Evan couldn’t help wishing that he had a close relationship like that with his own mate.
“Hi, Evan,” he said. “How’s Brett today?” Evan dropped his gaze. “I-I don’t know, Marco. I haven’t been to see him today. Yesterday when I came in to see him, he gave a big sigh, like, oh God, not him again.I think I’m just making him miserable.He obviously doesn’t want to see me.”
Marco made a sound of exasperation. “I think this has gone on long enough, damn it. Evan, come with me.I’m putting a stop to this right now.”
Marco turned and strode off, obviously expecting Evan to follow him so he trailed along behind him down the stairs to the basement clinic, where Brett was.
As they walked in, Brett sat up in bed and looked from Evan back to Marco with a little apprehension. He swallowed hard and nodded at them.“Alpha, Evan, how are you both this evening?”
Marco folded his arms and gave Brett the look he usually saved for Nicky when he was doing something outrageous.“Brett, have you decided to come back to the pack and take up your duties here?”
“Yes, Alpha, if you’ll have me. I know I’ve shirked my duties as lead gamma, and ruined all that, but I’ll come back in any capacity you’ll let me.”
“We can talk about that later. First there’s a little matter of thirty days of jail time you owe me.You’ve been confined in here for two weeks. I’ll count that toward your time. If the doctor says you can be released, then I’d like you to start the rest of your time tomorrow.”
Brett flushed a deep red and looked down.“Yes,Alpha, of course.”
“Since you’ve been so ill, I’m going to allow you to serve the rest of your sentence on house arrest.Evan, here, will be your jailer.”
Evan and Brett both turned looks of astonishment on Marco, but he stared steadily down at Brett. Without turning from Brett, he addressed Evan.“Evan, you are not to allow him out of your room for the full two weeks, is that clear?”
“Good. And Brett, you will do everything Evan tells you to do, is that understood?”
“Are you questioning my ruling, Brett?”
“No, sir, I was just going to say that Evan might not...”
“Evan?” Marco said. “Do you have a problem with it?”
“Then that’s settled. I’ll go talk to the doctor and then get someoneto help move you.” He turned on his heel and left them alone together, with an awkward silence between them. Evan knew Marco was trying to help, but help what, he wondered. Brett was so cold and distant. His mind seemed to be a thousand miles away as Evan sat waiting beside him. Evan wondered what he’d been doing the past week he’d spent away from him. Maybe it had been a relief not to have to be with his mate—a human mate, that he’d never wanted in the first place because humans were too wild and unpredictable. Wasn’t that what he’d said?
When the silence between them went from awkward to excruciating Brett finally spoke. Not looking directly at Evan, he said, “If you don’t want to do this, don’t feel you have to. I can talk to Marco and probably get you out of it.”